Jungle Cities

Read Jungle Cities and all the rest of Headquarters at it’s new home! http://www.headquartersbycaroljforrester.wordpress.com

Headquarters

There had been some oddities since the start of the war. Weapons that didn’t have quite the intended effect they were supposed to and cities that vanished overnight. That was when people starting moving below ground. What had started with single bunkers turned into networks and then communities, all of which expanded deeper and further until whole cities were living beneath the earth’s surface. One piled on top of the other, layer and layer jumbled together. Headquarters had estimates, approximations for population sizes and military capabilities, but most of the time they were blind to what was going on outside their organisation.  Top-side they could keep watch; most of the satellite feeds that had existed before the war were now under Headquarters’ control. However, there were still some areas that Sasha couldn’t view remotely from her office. She had to send men to gather in-tell, survey blind spots and dispatch…

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Central Command

I’ve finally got around to reposting the updated, redrafted version of my Headquarters story to it’s own site! I first uploaded Headquarters three years ago. Since then my writing has improved and hopefully so has my edited. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Headquarters

Sasha checked the wall of screens again, their soft glow falling across her desk as she shuffled papers in the gloom. No sign of any incoming attacks, and most of the western borders were quiet. Something of a skirmish had broken out just north of Paris but her boys were taking care of that; it was nothing to spend time watching.

Leaning back in her chair she double checked, eyes glancing from screen to screen before settling on the keyboard in front of her.

Dear Mr President she typed, fingers hesitating as she debated what to put next. She hovered, glancing back up to see if her boys had finished with the outlying force yet and then re-focused her attention.

‘Dear Mr President…’ she read the words back to herself and wriggled her fingers. Discussions must be opened… her fingers stopped again. There was no use in it, no matter…

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Gunk

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“I wouldn’t touch that!”
Timothy’s gloved finger hovered an inch away from the gloopy mess situated in Dr Jessamine Bell’s lab while the boss herself tapped out instructions on the hologram screen behind.
“Is it dangerous?” he asked, retracting his hand and ramming it safely into his lab-coat pocket.
“Haven’t tested it yet. Could just be gunk with severely funky odor.”
Timothy nodded, eyes still fixed on the sample. “They found it topside right?”
“Yeap,” said Jessamine, popping the ‘p’.
“But why bring it back?”
Jessamine shrugged. “Supposedly saved the Director’s life.”
“How?” Timothy asked.
“Stopped her bleeding to death.”

grapevine2bgoo1Photo Credit: Madison Wood

 


 It’s been a while since I wrote anything for Headquarters so I thought to myself, why not use this prompt as a chance to come up with a couple of new characters and a new idea to move the story along. Now I just have to write the segment which covers the finding of the gunk with severely funky odor

Something Brewing

Grant lowered the maps quietly onto Sasha’s desk and turned to leave the room at the same steady pace that he’d used to sneak in.

“How did the scans not pick up their presence, how did they creep under our radar, how did we not know about this Grant?”

Stringing together an eclectic concoction of curses in his head, Grant stopped and spun around to face Sasha, the surveillance screens shimmering in front of her as they switched from location to location.

“At least you got you brother out alive and we have now been alerted to the threat, I think a plan of action instead of questioning your performance as leader of Headquarters might be a more productive use of your time right now, don’t you?”

He watched as the muscles in her jaw started their off-key dance and held his breath, he suddenly didn’t want to know what plan of action was about to roll off his boss’ tongue.

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I wanted the ‘Headquarters’ segments to work just as well on their own as they do together. I hope I’ve managed to achieve that. If you’re interested in reading more of the series, check out the links below.

Central Command:

Headquarters

The Man On Level Twenty-Four

Talk To The Rock

Jungle Cities

Safe Haven:

The Catwalk

Valentine’s Day

Under The Rot

Waiting Below

Jungle Cities

There had been some oddities since the start of the war. Weapons that didn’t have quite the intended effect they were supposed to and cities that vanished overnight. That was when people starting moving below ground. What had started with single bunkers turned into networks and then communities, all of which expanded deeper and further until whole cities were living beneath the earth’s surface. One piled on top of the other, layer and layer jumbled together. Headquarters had estimates, approximations for population sizes and military capabilities, but most of the time they were blind to what was going on outside their organisation.  Top-side they could keep watch; most of the satellite feeds that had existed before the war were now under Headquarters’ control. However, there were still some areas that Sasha couldn’t view remotely from her office. She had to send men to gather in-tell, survey blind spots and dispatch enemy forces using those hidden spots to encroach further than they should. It didn’t matter if she was practically running on a skeleton crew, to have influences over the surviving world powers she had to make it look like Headquarters was still as formidable as ever.

§

James was sick of the topside. There were bugs in his mouth; his shirt stuck uncomfortable to his back and no matter where he looked all he could see was more of… well nothing.

‘This used to be a city?’ he asked, pushing vines out of his way as they tracked through the mass of jungle undergrowth.  ‘You have to be kidding me right? There’s nothing here but trees and-’ A bug flew into the back of his throat and the rest of the sentence was lost to a choak.

‘You’re forgetting the cats,’ Hughes said, lingering beside James as he doubled over coughing. He waited until the boy was done spitting and then nudged him forward, pressing on to keep up with the rest of the group. He’d already been demoted once in the last month and he wasn’t prepared to deal with the fallout of losing the Director’s baby brother. ‘Before the war there were zoos and safari parks, but they abandoned them when the war erupted and the animals ended up escaping. The ones that weren’t eaten by the others just kept roaming.’

‘So we’ve got wild animals to contend with as well,’ He slapped at his arm and his fingers came away red with mosquito juices. ‘Bloody brilliant.’

Hughes shrugged. He was taller than James by a head and a bit, not that it was difficult when James was one of the shortest people around the base. Thin as a beanpole and stringy as the beans themselves it wasn’t hard to see why the lad was deemed good for nothing. He examined the world around them and the soldiers with the same look. One that said he was too good to be there and if they gave him chance he would explain to them exactly why.

‘It’s nothing new really; all animals are wild these days. These ones are just a little more likely to eat you instead of you eating them.’ Hughes grabbed onto James arm and yanked him back. The bear trap snapped upwards, its metal teeth gnashing against each other as it sealed shut. James yelped, falling into his saviour.

The rest of the unit turned. O’Hara lifted his helmet and scratched his forehead, studying the trap with distaste.

‘Still got all your legs?’ he asked.

There were five men in the unit; Hughes, O’Hara, Cricy, Mick and Skegs. James was pretty sure that none of those names were real, or at least, not the names any of them had been born with. That was the way with most of the Headquarters soldier. They didn’t want to think about who they were before the war so they became someone new. It wasn’t as if the war looked like it was going to be finished during their lifetimes, so it didn’t really matter what they called themselves, there was nothing else for them but the work. James could pick them apart by the badges on their arms but other than that they all looked the same. Camouflaged uniforms and low helmets with visors. All of them one and the same. They shifted back into formation, O’Hara at the front with his machete, Cricy, Mick and Skegs following with James second from last and Hughes bringing up the rear. Babysitting the tourist and O’Hara put it.

‘We’re here.’ O’Hara tapped one of the tree trunks with his hunting knife. ‘Welcome to Nurmberg boys.’

James peered past them to see exactly what it was that O’Hara had been pointing at.

‘Is that a bird?’ he asked, squinting at the faded engraving someone had roughly scored into the bark.

‘Eagle,’ said Crecy. ‘Old crest or somethin’, not that it matters too much, nothin’ left to represent.’

‘Oh,’ said James quietly as they started moving again. ‘What happened exactly?’

‘Bomb,’ explained Hughes. ‘Not sure what kind exactly, but it went off and took the city with it. Everything top-side was levelled and within three years this was here.’

‘You mean the forest?’ James asked.

‘Yep,’ grinned Cricy. He turned and began walking backwards so he could look at James as he talked. Cricy was known for being something of a biology nut and he’d been itching to visit what was left of Nuremberg for years. ‘Just like it sprang up overnight,’ he grinned, showing two lines of perfectly straight white teeth. ‘Well weird, but the stuff that started showing up after that!’ He whistled between his teeth. ‘Dam! I’ve seen at least twenty plants since we got here that are supposed to be extinct! Twenty man!’

‘Yer we’ve got it Cricy. This place is some sort of Eden for freaks like you,’ muttered O’Hara. ‘Keep your eyes on the mission. We’ve got reports of life-signs, big human like ones, and there ain’t meant to be any humans out here.’

‘Maybe the science is wrong,’ suggested James. ‘I mean they only showed up yesterday and if there were humans living up here shouldn’t they have been showing up like forever?’

‘Ain’t the science,’  said O’Hara. ‘Somethin’ is going on in this place and it’s weirder than a few extinct shrubs.’

‘They weren’t shrubs.’ Cricy protested. ‘They were-’

‘I don’t give a dam Circy! I told ya. Mind the mission and not your precious plants!’ O’Hara shook his head and took a swing at the vegetation, grunting as the blade stuck for a second.

The group fell into silence and kept trudging. Each tree they passed James kept his eyes peeled, trying to spot another mark like the one he’d seen earlier. If there were people living up here perhaps that meant topside was becoming safe again. Perhaps they didn’t have to live underground anymore? He pushed the thoughts back down where they belong. They were dangerous and stupid, his sister always told him so.

§

When the light started to fail O’Hara ordered them to make camp and James was left to meander around the edges. He didn’t have the strength the rest of them had, they were mountains of muscle and he was all sinew. Granted he could climb mountains, but trekking through jungle where every step involved getting slapped in the face by branches was somewhat draining.

‘Hey Circy?’ he called, wandering over to the soldier. Circy was fixing the last of the guide ropes on one of the tents.

‘Yer, what?’ he snapped, annoyed that O’Hara had confiscated his plant samples on some reasoning about possible contaminates being introduced to Headquarters.

‘That mark on the tree, the eagle.’

‘What about it,’ asked Circy.

James leaned forward.

‘I want to know who drew it,’ he said.

‘Drew it?’ Circy repeated. ‘How the hell am I supposed to know? Been there as long as I can remember.’

‘Then who found it first?’ James asked. ‘It can’t have just appeared.’

Circy shrugged. ‘Always been there I guess. Maybe some other soldier put it there to mark the outskirts of the old city? Might be a pathfinders mark.’

‘It’s less than half a day’s walk from the drop off point,’ said James. ‘No soldier would have the time unless he stayed behind, and units don’t split up unless absolutely necessary.’ He felt a flush of pride as he recited basic protocol for unit excursions.

‘Then I give up. It’s a mystery and let’s leave it at that.’

James’ face fell and he swallowed his reply.

‘I suppose,’ he said, not sounding convinced.

‘Dam right,’ grunted Circy, finished with the tent at last. ‘Only thing that’s important right now is who’s cooking.’ He stood and waved at the rest of the unit. ‘Oi, O’Hara! Who’s chef tonight.’

O’Hara hurled a ration packet at Circy feet.

‘Every man for himself,’ grinned the leader. ‘Who knows, this match may even taste half decent.’

§

As the night drew further on James watched the rest of the soldiers turn in, all except O’Hara who took first watch. He didn’t bother asking the soldier about the eagle, he was probably get the same answer as Circy had given and he was working on his own theory anyway.

He didn’t panic when he noticed movement outside of camp. He probably wouldn’t have even spotted it if he hadn’t been searching. The blade against his throat however was a little more than unnerving.

‘Step away from the boy and declare yourself,’ growled O’Hara, three steps behind James before he could even so much as squeak. O’Hara had his pistol level with the stranger’s head, barely bothering to take notice of the animal skins clothing the man.

‘O’Hara,’ James croaked. ‘I think I might have found who drew that eagle.’ Beads of blood began to slide down across his jugular as he swallowed by the stranger’s blade didn’t move. O’Hara clicked the safety off his gun.

‘I said let him go,’ O’Hara growled. ‘Now.’

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